Friday, June 2, 2006
Carlisle changes, yet again
Ed. note: John Ballantine is a former Carlisle Selectman and co-author of "Growing Pains," the 1999 report on the impact of population growth on Carlisle. He offers his interpretation of current demographic trends.
Over the past 50 years, Carlisle has changed from a town of scrappy chicken and dairy farmers, to young engineers finding great land deals and an ideal place to raise families, to our present mix of maturing professionals. Carlisle's demographic metamorphosis is fascinating, and open to much interpretation and talk.
Today we are full of aging baby boomers. GenX-ers (25-40) are sparsely represented — the Baby Busters cannot yet afford Carlisle. And our silent generation slips inexorably and gradually to the space once held by the Greatest Generation. Our parents and grandparents who came of age during the Depression and Great War are departing.
The shift is dramatic. Today there are fewer than 250 women in their prime child bearing years (age 25-40) than 15 years ago (1990) when there were some 800 plus women. In fact, during the past four years over half the children born in Carlisle were to mothers over 40. This means that fewer school children will be entering the early school grades over the coming years. The Carlisle Public School population will decline, unless there is a significant influx of new families into town.
Carlisle's demographic balance and focus has shifted considerably over the past 15 years. As we age our priorities change. (The ballfield vote may have signaled something; no astroturf, and more support for senior activities?) In the coming years we need more young families to populate the excellent schools that we have built in our towns over the past 40 years. The 40Bs will help Carlisle recalibrate its center and the new residents will become a critical part of our future. How will they vote and participate in our town?
Taxes and income growth are the other part of our story. Yes, taxes have grown considerably over the past 15 years as we have expanded our schools, added town services and preserved more land. These initiatives are part of the core values that Carlisle voters continue to support. Fortunately our income has grown too, more than keeping pace with the tax increases. But the tax bite is real, particularly for the 30% of Carlisle families with incomes under $100,000.
So while the average tax burden is somewhat less for most families living in Carlisle, especially if you factor in the reductions in federal and state taxes over the past 15 years, the pressures we all face are very real. Looking at the Carlisle's budget numbers it is evident that our willingness to support overrides in the coming years will be tested yet again. The future needs of the town and our aging population are significant: refurbishing the schools, additional playing fields, town services for all, community centers, affordable housing, and preserving open space. And then, our individual plans college tuitions, children's' weddings, retirement, travel, and looming medical expenses are becoming a burgeoning part of our priorities.
Yes, these numbers only begin to hint at our stories, preferences and future override votes. Fascinating for those of us who like to speculate and prognosticate. Clearly, we have some challenges aheadand plans to discuss.
© 2006 The